Neuronal Circuits for Fear Expression and Recovery: Recent Advances and Potential Therapeutic Strategies

Biol Psychiatry. 2015 Sep 1;78(5):298-306. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.03.017. Epub 2015 Mar 24.


Recent technological developments, such as single unit recordings coupled to optogenetic approaches, have provided unprecedented knowledge about the precise neuronal circuits contributing to the expression and recovery of conditioned fear behavior. These data have provided an understanding of the contributions of distinct brain regions such as the amygdala, prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and periaqueductal gray matter to the control of conditioned fear behavior. Notably, the precise manipulation and identification of specific cell types by optogenetic techniques have provided novel avenues to establish causal links between changes in neuronal activity that develop in dedicated neuronal structures and the short and long-lasting expression of conditioned fear memories. In this review, we provide an update on the key neuronal circuits and cell types mediating conditioned fear expression and recovery and how these new discoveries might refine therapeutic approaches for psychiatric conditions such as anxiety disorders and posttraumatic stress disorder.

Keywords: Amygdala; Anxiety disorders; Fear expression; Neuronal circuits; Prefrontal cortex; Single unit recordings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety / pathology
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Fear*
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Optogenetics
  • Recovery of Function / physiology*